13 Aug 2015

Yvette Cooper: The battle is on for the soul of the party

Labour leadership hopeful Yvette Cooper slams rival Jeremy Corbyn for his policies, telling potential voters that the ‘battle was on for the soul of the party’.

The shadow home secretary gave a passionate speech in Manchester today insisting she had a “more feminist approach” and she was “in it to win it” as the race for leadership intensifies.

Tomorrow ballot papers will be dispatched to voters to decide who will lead the Labour party between the four contenders, also including Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham. The winner will be declared on 12 September.

A woman can lead the Labour party Yvette Cooper

With only a matter of weeks to go, Ms Cooper told supporters why she joined Labour and her passion for the party, highlighting gender issues and attacking her rivals.

“I joined the party I love a quarter of a century ago because I believe in something. That the world needn’t be this way,” she said.

“That the gap between rich and poor is too big. That markets should serve humanity not humanity serve markets. That diplomacy is better than war, but sometimes you have to be ready to fight for justice.

“Labour must always give voice to the voiceless, strength to the weak, that the Tories don’t have a right to rule and that a woman can lead the Labour party,” she added.

However Ms Cooper declined to answer journalists questions about whether she had been asked by other Labour MPs to pull out of the race for the leadership.

Frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn has stormed the polls and his growing popularity has caused tensions within the party, as some MPs fear the leadership contest has exploited by hard-left groups and political opponents including Conservative activists.

Ms Cooper said party now faces an “identity crisis” and warned that the veteran left-winger was not “credible”, saying he offers the “wrong answers for the future”.

She said Mr Corbyn was not a radical alternative but he was “offering old solutions to old problems, not new answers to the problems of today”.

“I understand Jeremy has strong support. But I feel really strongly, not just as a leadership candidate but as a Labour Party member that desperately wants an effective Labour government, that his are the wrong answers for the future – that they aren’t radical and they aren’t credible,” she said.

Ms Cooper also said the fight for the party was not about personalities but about the future of the country.

She continued: “Too often in this race people have suggested that only one candidate has principles. Rubbish.”

She said there “there’s a battle on for the soul of our party” and that a real radical approach would be to back her as a woman for the party.

“A Labour Party after a century of championing equality and diversity which turns the clock back to be led again by a leader and deputy leader, both white men.

“Or to smash our own glass ceiling to get Labour’s first elected woman leader and woman prime minister too. Who’s the real radical? Jeremy or me?” she added.

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair has also waded into the leadership contest warning the party faces “annihilation” if Mr Corbyn become leader.

Writing in the Guardian, he pleaded with voters not to “take Labour over the cliff edge”.

Mr Blair said: “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below.

“This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes ‘disunity’. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible.”

According to party data, more than 600,000 people are set to vote for the next Labour leader and party membership is up more than 80,000 since the general election defeat.

Hundreds of thousands of them are believed to be members of trade unions.